Ex snooker pro Dene O'Kane enjoying his life

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014
dene o'kane standard
CHRIS SKELTON / Fairfax NZ
Dene O'Kane in the Penthouse apartment he sold in the Metropolis building in Auckland.
o'kane
Fairfax NZ
O'Kane rarely plays these days.

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Dene O'Kane is chalking up house sales rather than cues these days.

The former snooker professional rarely plays, preferring to concentrate on Auckland's high end penthouse apartment market.

An agent with Ray White City Apartments, O'Kane began his "second career" in 2007 and it sounds as though he will see it through to retirement.

O'Kane lives on Waiheke Island, where he relishes the fact there are not only houses to sell but vineyards to drink at and a golf course to improve his handicap of 14.

The phone line is poor today but his mood is good. You get the impression he enjoys the finer things in life.

O'Kane is happy with his decision to return from London seven years ago and try his luck in real estate.

"No sportsman lasts forever and I had a good run," he says of a 18-year pro career that saw him go as high as No 18 in the world and earnings of £415,000 (NZ$825,350).

"Real estate was something I was very interested in and once I got my qualifications, I looked around where I wanted to work.

"It wasn't easy to begin with. It was the real estate doldrums."

After a while the breaks came for 51-year-old O'Kane. Two years ago he sold a top floor penthouse apartment in the Metropolis building in Auckland for $3.45 million. He talks of other big sales.

O'Kane is playing less and less. This year his only tournament will be the world senior championships in Portsmouth, England, in October.

He made the semis two years ago before losing to Jimmy White but last year was bundled out in the opening round of the £50,000 tournament by Nigel Bond.

Like a student before exams, O'Kane will gamble on last-minute preparation to see him right.

"I literally don't pick up a cue for six months at a time," he says.

"That is the way it is. This year I've decided I won't play any tournaments in New Zealand or Australia and just put my focus on real estate up until the world senior title.

"I'll spend a week or two in London beforehand."

On the subject of real estate, snooker's home is the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. O'Kane was a regular there and could beat anyone on his day as evidenced by the scalps of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.

As a professional he racked up 46 century breaks. His highest was 140 at the 1990 world champs.

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Is Wikipedia's estimate of his snooker earnings accurate?

"I'd be surprised if it was that low, " he says matter of factly.

Of his former opponents, Cliff Thorburn is singled out as one player he has remained in contact with.

O'Kane says the advent of management groups virtually split the professionals into two camps. You were either in Davis' camp or Hendry's.

Ironically he was in neither, saying he was able to sit on the side as an overseas player and generally get on with everyone.

So, which of the two guns, was harder to play?

"Davis was possibly the more difficult.

"Hendry was a very attacking player but you got more opportunities if he missed a few.

"With Davis, he could grind you down into the dirt with his all round tactical style."

O'Kane is a batchelor. He has two sisters and a brother and his mother, Lesley, is in her 80th year and living "a happy and hearty life" in Tauranga.

- The Dominion Post

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